“Follow the money!” Everyone’s talking about it, especially in relation to corruption, fraud and organised crime.

What does “following money” actually mean in this context? How do we do it in practice? And what are some of the wider possibilities?

Tracking down high-level criminals and their networks

“Follow the money” is a snappy way to say: investigate financial transactions and use them to extract information or evidence about a crime, suspect or criminal network.

Over 80 arbitrators, lawyers and experts from around the world gathered at the University of Basel on 10 January 2020 to tackle the thorny issues of corruption and money laundering in international arbitration.

Corruption and money laundering affecting an underlying dispute are a considerable challenge for arbitrators and parties in investment and commercial arbitration. 

If corruption and/or money laundering is established, arbitrators need to decide about the legal consequences for the parties’ claims.

Die Schweiz ist der global wichtigste Standort für die Raffination von Gold. Jahr für Jahr werden circa 2200-3100 Tonnen Rohgold in die Schweiz importiert. Der Grossteil der Importe ist auf die Geschäftstätigkeit der hiesigen Goldraffinerien zurückzuführen. Sie sollen gemeinsam rund 50-70% der weltweiten Goldproduktion in die Schweiz importieren, um daraus Goldbarren, Halbfabrikate und andere Güter herzustellen. 

Switzerland is the world leader in gold refining. Of the roughly 2,200–3,100 tonnes of raw gold imported into the country each year,  the majority is destined for Swiss gold refineries. Together these companies are estimated to refine 50–70 percent of the world’s gold production, transforming it into gold bars, semi-finished products and other goods. 

The Basel Institute's latest Working Paper explores whether, why and how gold refiners can be further integrated in efforts to prevent and combat money laundering in Switzerland. The author, Stefan Mbiyavanga, explains the background and what motivated him to write it, including pending reforms in the Swiss Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Given the vast dimensions of the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade (IWT), it may be surprising that until recently, global efforts to tackle IWT came mainly from the conservation sector. This has typically consisted of numerous donor-funded efforts to catch poachers and raise public awareness of the plight of endangered species.

Valuable as those efforts are, they do little to impact the organised crime networks, corruption and illicit financial flows that allow the lucrative illegal trade in wildlife products to continue.